Friday, October 08, 2010

Worth a view, if you're not too distracted by your FB'ing

I enjoyed this presentation on SlowTV a great deal.

How the Internet is rewiring our brains
Nicholas Carr with Gideon Haigh

"Like lab rats pressing a lever," when referring to the way technology facilitates our craving for new information so much that we will disregard what we are currently concentrating (already procured) on to replace it with something new.

For those of you who can't focus on one thing for 24 minutes, here's a few points of interest -- not that you can jump to the points, b/c SlowTV insists on providing full context, so you have to watch from start to finish.

  • Throughout, Carr does a good job of basing the cases he attempts to make on how the brain functions. 
  • Video games: Part I at the  ~10 min mark.
  • 20:35 Adding links to text decreases comprehension b/c it activates decision making in the brain, reducing working memory that can be allocated to focusing on comprehending the text.
  • Pt. 2  Danger in our tendency to start thinking of the Web as a replacement to our long term memory (LTM) instead of a supplement. "I don't have to remember that because I can just remember the search string."
  • Pt. 2 a 3:10, claims Google (and other search engines) are dangerous because they serve up fragments and "return the most popular stuff instead of perhaps the best stuff" and everyone gets the same thing.  I disgree with problems on the fragments... for me, fragments are like hand-holds on a cliff, or clues. Oftentimes when doing research, especially in new areas where one doesn't have a developed understanding of the domain, one doesn't even have the language for asking questions, thus the fragments and having something like Google to help guess what I mean is of enormous help. The danger is stopping there, which I see many students do on campus. 
  • Pt. 2 at 8:40 - putting journals online has hurt scholarship. Mixed feelings about this. I am working on a lit review right now, and I am so very thankful for the electronic PDFs and ability to search databases, but Carr says having them online has narrowed the scope of research instead of broadening it as people thought it would.


Joshua Stamper said...

I disagree about the last point, that online journals have hurt scholarship. Not every piece of scholarly work is destined for the "elite" journals, but that makes it no less worthy. In fact in the agronomy world, online journals have made information (or at least just the abstracts) more readily available to lay people.
Most of my literature was from the 1950's so I have a real appreciation for leafing through the old tomes that bind schollarly journals. However, the ability to search by key words, google things, and utilize other tools like web of science IS the direction that scholarship is going. We can't really be sponges any more, now we have to teach students how to process and only retain info that is pertinent.

sydney said...

I hadn't considered how electronic access was making resources available to lay people, but you're absolutely correct on that point. I would add the distance student and researchers at less well-resourced colleges and universities to the beneficiaries as well.

As far as citing more recent research than that from further past, I suppose I thought that was the point of building on the work of others.